This chapter may have been one of the most obviously relevant chapters to youth ministry. How do we respond when discipline is necessary in our ministries? It’s often tempting to give in to the knee jerk & tell them they can’t come anymore. It would often make our lives easier to do exactly that.
I once had a couple guys start coming to youth group who had a reputation for being in trouble a lot. I thought it was awesome that these guys wanted to be there at all, and prayed they’d quickly find a deeper connection with God. But, the parents of some of the other kids in the group didn’t want them around. Actually, they threatened to stop bringing their kids if I allowed these two guys to keep coming. There was a real fear that I was allowing the bad influences into our group.
But isn’t that part of what we’re here for? Why are we surprised when Godless people act Godless? Why does it shock us when an unexperienced kid makes a dumb decision to get himself in trouble? A huge part of youth ministry is helping those students learn from bad decisions and learn to avoid compounding the trouble with more bad decisions in the future. It’s helping them understand the life of a disciple of Jesus and how to trust and share His mercy without cheapening and abusing it.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to discipline students who are out of line. But the intention isn’t to punish them or kick them out of the group or keep them away from the “good kids” – it’s to build and to restore and to reconcile their relationship with Jesus. A thought that was central to this chapter is the familial nature of the church. If we think of our youth ministry as our family, we’ll be much more likely to offer mercy and extend the grace needed to restore relationships.